Foreign Policy

Study Finds More Info Could Lead to Less Support for Intervention; Slate Depressed

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boko haram?
danny.hammontree/foter/CC

The authors of a recent paper focusing on the success of the viral campaign "Kony 2012" say their findings "suggest that when a complex adverse situation is reduced to the actions of a clear enemy, this inspires moral outrage against the enemy. However, if the complexity of the situation becomes clearer, the enemy inspires less moral outrage and determination to act." Moral outrage, then, can fuel the determination to act, interventionism, and both moral outrage and the desire for interventionism seem harder to stir up when more information is available.

This ought to be a good example of why more information, and rational thinking, are so important in creating a prudent, non-interventionist, foreign policy. Unless, of course, you consider relieving moral outrage to be America's burden. Slate social-media headlined an article on the study  as "The Depressing Reason Why Hashtag Campaigns Like #StopKony And #BringBackOutGirls Take Off." Slate's Joshua Keating wrote that the paper "suggests—depressingly—that the oversimplification of the message in the original video was exactly the reason it was successful," continuing:

Defenders of campaigns like these often say that they can be gateways toward greater understanding of complex global issues. Viewers first get hooked on the moral outrage, then learn more about the underlying conditions that produced the crisis, becoming better-informed global citizens.

This paper suggests that unfortunately the opposite is true. Viewers get interested when they hear about evil monsters like the LRA or Boko Haram that just need to be stopped. When they learn more about the issue and find out that, lo and behold, the world is a very complicated place, that killing the monster won't be so easy and that there are larger issues in play beyond the monster itself, they lose interest. 

I don't see how it's unfortunate that "better-informed global citizens" are still coming to understand "the world is a very complicated place." If they choose not to be interested in intervention, they remove from pro-interventionists a bank of emotionalism and force them instead to argue their often naïve and basic foreign policy ideas within the context of a "complicated" world.

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  1. Moral outrage, then, can fuel the determination to act, interventionism, and both moral outrage and the desire for interventionism seem harder to stir up when more information is available

    Beyond interventionism, you just described TEAM OUTRAGE to a “t”, and also why they avoid information and nuance; they just want to be morally outraged and too much information ruins that. So they actively shun it.

    1. Today’s Fresh Air has Terry Gross interviewing Daniel Schulman on his new biography on the Koch brothers.

      I was afraid it was going to be another hack interview, a la that with Jane Meyer, totally demonizing the Kochs. But Schulman was incredibly fair and objective, and the whole show stressed the Kochs’ libertarian ends much more than their role in Republican politics.

      At the end of the show I noted to myself that Schulman probably didn’t sell many books with his showing on this favorite venue of progressives.

  2. Answer: The Romans.

    1. Wrong. The Judean People’s Front.

      1. I’m going with the money changers in the temple.

  3. Good thing this study has no implications for other areas of public policy!

  4. “The authors of a recent paper focusing on the success of the viral campaign “Kony 2012″…”

    What?

    remind me what this ‘success’ accomplished again?

    I have a vague memory of a) some guy being arrested for walking around nude in traffic. And b) I reflected that Generation Y was full of dumb fucking twatrockets. That would be the sum total of ‘achievements’ of that campaign, as far as I remember.

    1. It was successful in that it went viral. Exposure is what matters, not actual results.

      1. Jesse change your mind yet? This place has “vegan chicken”. I’m going to order it just so that I can send it back.

        1. “Can you put some bacon on this?”

          1. Veal bacon.

          2. “Can you put some bacon on this?”

            *golf clap*

        2. “So, the chicken was vegan?”

          Seriously, though. Doesn’t it undermine your whole philosophy when half or more of your culinary dishes are pretending to taste exactly like the thing your philosophy prevents you from eating? Its like “kosher lobster”, which I guess is just krab.

          1. Apu: “I take it from your yelling that you like my tofu dogs?”
            Lisa: “Tofu?”
            Apu: “Oh, yes. No meat whatsoever. And only thrice the fat of a normal hot dog.

          2. Well, not to defend the stupidity of vegans (or vegetarians), but since it’s technically a moral stance, they’re not avoiding the food for taste reasons–they can love the taste of meat, they just can’t eat it–and there’s no contradiction in making vegan food that tastes like non-vegan food.

            1. That’s the logical way of looking at it, but these are probably the same people who support vaping bans because it resembles smoking.

              1. Oh, vegans almost certainly devolve into animism. I’ve known a few, including ones who weren’t nuts, and even they took a totemistic attitude towards animal products. It’s inevitable; if eating meat is bad, meat as an object becomes bad.

            2. Its a fair point. There’s nothing in the basic vegan philosophy that prevents that. I guess I just conflate vegans with people who would tell me my body “knows what it needs” as they try to fool it into thinking it is getting meat.

            3. “it’s technically a moral stance”

              But what about the possible amoral opposite style of cuisine?

              “Foods that taste *better* because they involve greater amounts of suffering?”

              I mean, everyone knows veal tastes great.

              But = what about veal that’s been *systematically bullied and humiliated*?

              Or chicken wings. We all love them. They bring out the inner cave-man that relishes ripping meat from the bones of freshly beaten-to-death animals.

              But what about *chicken wings ripped from still living chickens?* = and they keep the paraplegic chickens alive to watch their own limbs be consumed by their slavemasters?

              I mean, if someone out there is making a billion dollars flogging some bullshit about ‘Dolphin Safe’ tuna, or ‘Rainforest Friendly’ coffee, or some bullshit ‘free range’ chicken that was summarily executed just like its cage-happy bretheren… I see no reason why *I* shouldn’t make a billion dollars appealing to different consumer tastes.

              1. You can really taste the despair!

            4. I was talking to a very sincere young vegan lady one day about the moral implications of eating meat. I pointed to one of may canines and said that god or evolution (take your pick) gave me this to eat meat. Saying that eating meat is immoral is like saying sex is immoral.

              She stopped talking to me 😉

              1. Because she was a sex prude or because she was a food prude?

                1. Because I was old and scary 😉

              2. I remember my brother making the same argument once.

                He (or nature) also gave us canines, the animal, which our ancestors (and some people today) hunted with.

            5. It’s sometimes a moral stance. Not always and I would guess not even most of the time.

          3. Doesn’t it undermine your whole philosophy when half or more of your culinary dishes are pretending to taste exactly like the thing your philosophy prevents you from eating?

            Not at all; it’s a simulation. Is it wrong to play GTA5 if you believe murder is wrong? Nah, it’s an outlet.

            As a side note, I’ve had some damn good Jain food. Not all vegetarians are That One Idiot Hippie Girlfriend Who Can’t Cook.

      2. #thats-hot

    2. It lead to a successful episode of South Park.

  5. The authors of a recent paper focusing on the success of the viral campaign “Kony 2012”

    Huh?

    1. HA! got you by *one minute*

      1. Yes, yes you did.

        The campaign was a success if you define success as “the utoob video was watched by a large-ish number of people in a short-ish amount of time”

        The long-term outcome was a lot of people, even from reliably liberal circles scratching their heads at the oddity that was “Imbizzible Churrins” and its founder. Then a manic episode with (as you noted above) some dude masturbating and running naked through traffic.

        By the time I actually saw a red Kony poster I had almost forgotten the whole thing.

    2. You know what Kony 2012 is…and it made a bunch of Gen Ys reaffirm their support of Obama.

      If you don’t think that is success then you probably don’t think Occupy Wall Street was a success either.

      1. I don’t think OWS was a success either.

        1. How about “bring back our girls” hashtag?

          1. JC, millennials were going to reaffirm their support of Obama, Kony 2k or not.

            #bringbackourgirls is already fading.

            As Hugh noted above, if you define the viralness of the message, then ok, they were successes. If you mine the results, you come up mostly empty.

            And OWS was actually a marginal success in that from it has essentially come the seriousness that politicians take the $150 per hour minimum wage.

            1. I was being sarcastic.

              None of this garbage was a success.

            1. Larry King: Where da bitches at?

  6. However, if the complexity of the situation becomes clearer, the enemy inspires less moral outrage and determination to act

    Lets support 50% of Ukraine against the other 50% of Ukraine cuz their youtube babes are hotter!!

    1. Sounds good to me! But I’m going to need some videos for “evidence”.

  7. Speaking of ‘successful’ marketing of information that is already widely available and well known…

    …this whole OMG THE VA IS TOTALLY TEH SUCKS AND FUCKED UP!? WHO KNEW!?

    uh, this has been back-page news for the last fucking decade. Ask any vet. The only ‘surprise’ here is that anyone is able to credibly pretend to be surprised.

    1. #obamaismad

      #blamebush

      #rinseandrepeat

  8. the world is a very complicated place, that killing the monster won’t be so easy and that there are larger issues in play beyond the monster itself, they lose interest.

    I’m wondering if this is why I’m losing interest in everything on the news.

    1. You know, if Beowulf had thought that way, Grendel would still be terrorizing people today. As would his mom.

      1. Nah, we would just send you in to handle his mom.

        1. You know who else handled a monster’s mom?

          1. Sasquatch’s father?

        2. But I’m already handling Paul’s mom!

    2. We just had one of those crazy post-partem homicidal mom episodes a few towns over. I am 100% sure that the entire evening news will be devoted to live coverage of the incident.

      Can’t say I’m even a little bit interested in watching.

      1. I think the key issue will be to find out how and why men force women into these horrible mental states.

        1. +1

          1. “I put the rat poison in his chocolate chip muffin because I loved him too much.”

        2. The scientologists are already blaming psych meds.

  9. Whatever happened to that Kony guy, anyway?

    1. awareness was raised, man.

      What, that’s not enough for you? hey, have you seen that thing where the cat fights the dog?! Fucking crazy dude.

      1. Apparently, there is also a video which is a musical tribute to the last day of the work week.

    2. I’m not sure he exists. Seriously. I actually question whether the dude is even real.

      1. Kony, or the youtube guys?

        1. Well, you’re kind of beginning to go where I’m going. Kony is the Youtube guy.

          *nods slowly and profoundly, waiting for reaction*

          1. OK, I laughed.

            Youtube guys = the upper class white dudes who made the film.

      2. Don’t fool yourself. Kony is for real.

    3. I assume he was arrested and convicted by a lawful court, like the International Criminal Court. If not, then what was the point of me re-tweeting that #kony2012 hashtag??

  10. It is completely appropriate that this should be true. More information makes the range of actions appropriate for the situation more narrow; consequently people see their own views as misguided and default to no action. Some of these individuals will come up with a more appropriate action; others will not. That anyone would have a problem with this indicates just how far gone our foreign policy has been as of late.

  11. You do have to kind of admit though, that the Twitter generation has made activism much, much easier.

    Before, you’d have to build like a whole fucking papier mache head, go down to some central square (hoping to god the weather is decent) make a cardboard sign, chant a slogan that began with ‘hey hey, ho ho’ or ‘one-two-three-four’, and shit, you might get arrested and have to stay in a lockup for a couple of hours before being released. I mean, it was work.

    Now, you just retweet a hashtag and *boom*, you’re a veteran activist.

  12. I would actually argue the SLATE people are wrong, and its not that people fail to support ‘interventions’ because they learn more about complex issues…

    …its that the “somebody doing something” part of the equation is absolutely unrelated and an unnecessary component what these issues “mean” for people.

    People don’t ‘care about Joseph Kony’ because they ACTUALLY give a shit what’s going in the Central African Republic/Ugandan civil conflicts. Quite the contrary = those things don’t matter any more than when they knew NOTHING about the Kony thing.

    What they ‘care about’ is showing themselves that they ‘care’.

    once the moral-self-satisfaction is achieved, the goods have already been delivered. There is no need for any further interaction with this so-called ‘real world’

    Its moral candy for their egos. Full stop. It has no bearing on something as serious and complex as ‘foreign policy’. the point of these things is simply for people to dress up their minds with self assurances that they are Good People because they Care.

    it has as much connection to reality as having a super Baseball Card collection has to do with hitting a 95mph fastball with bases loaded in the 9th inning.

    1. Yeah, I think it’s this and also signaling to your social media brethren how much you care and how you’re a good, caring person. After you do that, you can go back to doing whatever you were doing before.

    2. I think a good number of the kind of shallow morons who read slate fit that description. I do not think most Americans fit it however. I think most Americans are earnest to a fault and really do want to do good in the world. They are willing to support doing so as long as they don’t realize how complex and hard the task is.

      To me this result makes perfect sense and ought to reaffirm some of your faith in the American public. Once someone explains how complex the situation is, they rightly get skeptical of intervening.

      1. “I think most Americans are earnest to a fault and really do want to do good in the world.”

        I think I could agree with this statement and at the same time point out that no one really gives enough of a wet fart about sub-Saharan Africa enough to actually learn the *names of most of the countries*.

        what happened with Darfur – the last hand-wringing du jour over Africa? I think after Angelina Jolie makes a photo-op, I think the story ceases to be interesting to anyone.

        I don’t mean to impugn the good feelings that many Americans may have, nor the sincere donations many make to international aid, etc.

        What I am pointing out is that “Awareness campaigns” are not about “getting towards a policy goal”

        “Awareness campaigns” are mostly about people involved engaging in a group ritual of self-serving back-patting. Its a fucking industry. I know people who’ve spent 20 years doing ‘advocacy work’ in Washington, and they can say in all seriousness that not one $ in all that time ever went to actually affecting the ostensible ‘issue’. It all went back into marketing the advocacy.

        Even greenpeace only spends about – what – 20% or less of their budget on ‘actions’, right? And those actions are by and large just different forms of marketing anyway.

  13. What they ‘care about’ is showing themselves that they ‘care’.

    This. It’s an affirmation, to themselves and others.

  14. This paper suggests that unfortunately the opposite is true. Viewers get interested when they hear about evil monsters like the LRA or Boko Haram that just need to be stopped. When they learn more about the issue and find out that, lo and behold, the world is a very complicated place, that killing the monster won’t be so easy and that there are larger issues in play beyond the monster itself, they lose interest.

    Wow. Gee Joshua, you mean the more someone knows about something the less likely they are to be taken in by Prog and various other governing class platitudes? Who could have seen that?

    You can’t troll these people. That paragraph is straight out of The Onion. This clown actually wrote that without a trace of irony. I don’t even know what to say.

  15. You have to invade it to know what’s in it.

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